I'm lucky in that Lily never stops by, my new-found female friend too much of a distraction to bring my muse calling.
“Shall we leave now?”
Emmy's words come after a long and somewhat uneasy silence. Uneasy, at least, for me. My earlier promise in mind, I had printed a copy of a few rough pages to present to Emmy, who was all too happy to delve into them, mug of steaming tea in hand. I was left to stare out the window or at my reflection, occasionally answering a question about the context or somesuch detail.
“Sure,” I reply. “Just let me finish the last gulp and then I'll return our cups.”
“Please,” Emmy starts. “I'll take them up. You can pack up your bag, alright?”
I greedily drain the last dregs of coffee, eager to set off. She takes the mug from my hand, her fingers brushing against mine as she does.
Moments later my unopened laptop is stowed in my bag and slung over my shoulder, Emmy waiting at the door for me. A bell above us rings as we leave.
“I think I've been here before,” Emmy whispers upon entering.
“I wouldn't be surprised, it's quite popular.”
She squints her eyes at the menu board and takes a glance at the surroundings. “It feels familiar somehow, but I know that I've never set foot in this place.” A pause. “It's like déjà vu.”
“Huh.” After a few moments of silent thought while in the queue, I ask, “Have you been to the Fisgard location before?”
She shakes her head no.
“Uptown? Sidney? Langford?”
More sideways shakes follow my suggestions.
I've got one last attempt: “Kits?”
Her face lights up. “Yes! Ah, I remember now. My friend brought me there when I visited last.” Suddenly the smile fades. “It was... bittersweet.”
“Do you mean...” I pause, unsure if humour is the right approach in this situation. I take the chance. “Do you mean sweet and sour?”
A happy sigh, a brief smile tugging at the corners of her mouth before disappearing briskly. “No, definitely bittersweet.”
“Am I allowed to ask why?” I instantly regret the words, not only because there's only one person ahead of us in the line, but because I can tell, instinctively, that the aforementioned “friend” wasn't always just that.
“A past relationship, nothing important right now.” As soon as the words leave her lips she lights up once more, eyes wide like her rediscovered smile. “So, what shall we have, Declan?”
Her change of face takes me by surprise, and I stumble over my answer. The cashier calls for my order, which I recite with a few pauses despite having practiced before. She asks for my name, scrawls it across the receipt, and then sends us away to wait.
Despite having spent mere minutes indoors there was a drastic change in the weather outside. The sky had shrouded itself like a sick recluse, the sun disappeared and replaced with gray whorls. Puddles on the ground reflected the sky above, broken by boot-falls and the lancing rain. Because of this we take seats across from each other in a small booth, a valuable commodity in the newly turned weather.
Idle chit-chat had ensued, of course, both of us feeling a little awkward from Emmy's relationship revelation. At least I hope the feeling is mutual. I poke at my meal with the chopsticks, bringing small morsels to my mouth every now and again.
Obviously my hopes are not entirely true.
“You seem distracted, Declan,” Emmy says, breaking away from the previous subject of musical taste. “Was it something I said earlier?”
She'd been teasing me for my fondness of female vocalists, but I knew that wasn't what she was referencing.
“No, of course not,” I answer. “I mean yes, I am, a little. Distracted, that is. But it's not because of anything you've said or done. I'm just thinking of my novel, is all.”
My fumbling make her smile as I force my own.
She jokes that I'm mining my social life for writing material, which starts me laughing before I can reply.
“What else would I write about? I can't exactly write about something I've never seen or experienced with much authority or persuasion. It's all I know.” I pause for a few moments as Emmy lifts another forkful of her meal into her mouth. “Even fantasy is a reflection of one's own dreams.”
After swallowing her mouthful, Emmy replies, “So that bit at the front, 'Any likeness to real people or events is coincidence,' is bunk?”
“Completely,” is my answer, all I can manage with my own mouth full.
“Am I one of those people now?”
I take a few moments to think before answering, then say, “Maybe.”
With a sly smile she counters, “Am I becoming this Elsie?”
We both laugh, but I can't help but think that she's nothing like Lily Christianson.